Just read this article in The Mirror on the fiercest derbies in the world and the 'Superclásico' Boca - River Plate is the world's number one fiercest derby on the planet. I went to see the 'supérclásico' for the first time last year at Boca Juniors ground.
Now let me explain this to you, although Boca Juniors ground is based in La Boca neighbourhood; a working class area in the south of Buenos Aires city, over the past two decades Boca has changed dramatically and from being a poor team (financially speaking) with the largest crowd in Argentina, the club has become one of the richest in the region and probably the richest in the country.
As I mentioned before, it is true that its ground is located in the working class neighbourhood of ‘La Boca’. However, it is not as dangerous as it used to be. I went to La Boca a few times and I must admit that back in the day, going to their ground to support the away teams was probably one of the scariest things you could ever do. It was like going to Millwall on your own wearing a West Ham top. But today the area has changed a lot and it’s become one of the main tourist attractions in Buenos Aires. I remember Grant Fleming was at Bombonera documenting the superclasico in the 90s and he said that he saw similarities between Chelsea and West Ham; Boca being a bit like West Ham; the working class team and River Plate being the rich club; actually River Plate are known as ‘Millionarios’ (millionaires).
Back in the day in the early 80s and 90s up until 1995/1996, Boca was always linked with the working class team and River Plate was the rich club based in one of the poshest neighbourhoods in the north of Buenos Aires city. However, this changed a few years ago when River Plate went almost bankrupt and was relegated to the second division for the first time in history.
Boca Firm `La 12' was led by Jose Barrita aka ( El Abuelo (the grandfather). He was a bit of a legend among Boca fans. I even saw Boca supporters asking him for an autograph when he arrived at the ground surrounded by his own ‘Praetorian Guard’ who escorted him wherever he went to. The man became a bit of a legend and the Jugador N 12 became one of the toughest firms in the country causing havoc wherever they went to. As I said before going to Bombonera as an away fan was probably one of the most frightening things you could ever do as away fans were usually ambushed or ... just beaten up if you were lucky. La Boca could be turned into a war zone in seconds and you even feared being shot at. I saw the way the jugador N 12 organized themselves back in the day as I got trapped in one of their ambushes once. Violence was common ground in the 80's reaching a peak in the 90s. It was after a Boca / River Plate match at Bombonera when the days of El Abuelo came to an end. That day River Plate beat Boca Juniors 2-0 and after the match two River Plate supporters were shot dead. El Abuelo was said to have been behind the shootings but he was never found guilty of the crime. He was sent to prison for tax evasion and died of pneumonia a few years later.
It's worth pointing out that due to the increase of violence, away fans have been banned (I remember that During Sole Searching 2, Ian Brown, Gary Aspden and the rest of the team were invited to River Plate Stadium and they were surprised when I told them there would be no away fans at the ground. So it's been like two or three years now without aways fans) and you don’t get to see the old derbies the way they were. I went to see Boca / River Plate at Bombonera last year and I was surprised to see how things had changed. Frankly, even the fans seemed a lot more quiet than they were, more civilized I would say.
Boca is still a very popular club in Argentina based in the working class neighbourhood of La Boca which consisted solely of shipyards and of the houses of people who worked in them. The houses were built with cast-off ship building materials and were largely constructed of materials such as planks, sheet metal and corrugated iron.
River Plate are playing Boca at River Plate stadium Sunday 5th November. For those of you who don't know, River Plate stadium hosted the 1978 World Cup Final between Argentina and The Netherlands. You can watch a video below of the moment the Argentine team walks onto the pitch. It is also the ground of one of Oasis most memorable gigs during their last tour in 2009.
Now is Boca Juniors River Plate the fiercest derby in the world? Well it definitely was the fiercest and it still is one of the most exciting football matches in the world without a shadow of a doubt. Fortunately things have changed now and it is not as dangerous as it used to be as away fans have been banned which is a shame really but the 'Superclásico' is definitely one of those sporting events you should see at least once in your lifetime.
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Maradona playing for Boca
River Boca 1985
River Boca 2003
Special thanks to Fernando for the invitation
Oasis River Plate